Terry Grant smiles as he watches a ﬁve-year-old girl tucking into the Polpette, a sandwich stuffed with provolone cheese and meatballs made from his 86-year-old mother’s straight-from-the-Old-Country recipe. “Nonna would be so happy to see you eating that,” Grant says to the little girl, who later declares Nonna’s meatballs the best in the world.
Friendly faces and fabulous food are the hallmarks of Napoli Market & Deli, the Portsmouth and sandwich specialty shop that Grant owns with his wife, Darlene, and runs with their children. The Grants opened Napoli in July 2013, and since then, the little shop has become a neighborhood favorite with its selection of imported meats; wines and craft beers; locally sourced products, like handmade mozzarella cheese from Amesbury’s Wolf Meadow Farm; and warm baked goods and coffees, not to mention their signature paninis and sandwiches.
Grant was inspired to open Napoli from his mother and her hometown of Naples, Italy, where he spent an entire summer as a teenager. Even then Grant was struck by the number of high-quality sandwich shops that were a staple of neighborhood life in Naples. “There are just so many corner shops that you just walk in and get a great panini,” Grant says. He dreamed of bringing such a place to Portsmouth.
“I had this vision to do this for years and years,” Grant says, but the location had to be perfect, evocative of the kind of neighborhood places in Naples that he wanted to emulate. “We didn’t want anything in a strip mall.”
He found that in Napoli’s South Street location, where it’s tucked among houses in a quiet neighborhood a few blocks away from the bustle of downtown Portsmouth. Here, people from the neighborhood pop in and out, pick up sandwiches on their lunch breaks or on their way home from work, or maybe pull up a chair at one of the sidewalk tables in front of the little yellow shop.
The shop is warm and inviting inside, too, with its Tuscan yellow and tomato red décor; chalkboard with handwritten sandwich offerings; and shelves packed with specialty goods. “Inside it’s really a ﬂavor of Italy,” Grant says. “It reminds us of when we were there.”
That friendly, neighborhood atmosphere makes Napoli a great place to stop for a lunch that’s as gourmet and delicious as it is quick and affordable. Among the favorite offerings is the Napoli, which Grant describes as the shop’s signature sandwich. “It’s all really great imported and Boar’s Head cold cuts,” Grant says. It’s stuffed with Genoa salami, mortadella, hot capicola, provolone cheese, tomatoes, onions, pickles, arugula, hot pepper spread, and olive oil. Napoli’s versions of a BLT, the Guido, features pancetta, arugula, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Another winner is the Taddeo, a decadent grilled panini ﬁlled with prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula, and ﬁg jam. For those who crave lighter lunch fare, Napoli also offers salads and soup specials that change daily. And of course, there’s the Polpette, Napoli’s fat meatball sub with provolone cheese, tomato sauce, and grated parmesan. Grant says his mother’s meatballs—which are made fresh, in-house every day, have developed a huge following. Dessert offerings include homemade Ricotta Pie, freshly ﬁlled Cannoli, and Rainbow Cookies from Modern Pastry in Boston’s North End.
Grant says he’s thrilled at how much Napoli has been embraced by the people in Portsmouth. “They love having their neighborhood Italian specialty market,” he says. “It’s a fun little place.”
Napoli Market & Deli
261 South Street